Four Must-Do River Cruises
RIVER cruising is one the fastest growing travel styles and shows no signs of slowing down. New routes are opening up, ships are being built and itineraries are being refined. Here are four rivers that continue to inspire travellers from around the world.
Less than a decade ago Myanmar (formerly Burma) was only for the intrepid few. Today, travellers from all over the world are descending on this beguiling and often mysterious country, and they are often drawn there by the opportunity to cruise down the Irrawaddy River. The river – which flows from north to south before emptying in to the Andaman Sea – has shaped Myanmar’s history; and is inseparable from the country’s spiritual life. River cruises travel between the former capital Yangon and Mandalay. Highlights include The Golden Schwedagon Pagoda, one of Buddhism’s most sacred sites; the thousands of pagodas that cover the plains of Bagan; and watching the sun set at the U Bein Bridge – the world’s longest teak bridge.
Europe continues to be the go-to destination for many people choosing to take a river cruise, and The Danube is the jewel in the crown (or as Napoleon once referred to it, “Queen of Europe’s Rivers”). Measuring 2850km the Danube travels through ten countries — Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine – and ships can navigate 87 per cent of the waterway’s length, meaning Danube River cruises can sail from the North Sea to the Black Sea. Highlights along the route include the capital of the Czech Republic, Prague; the Austrian city of Linz – a former provincial and local government city of the Holy Roman Empire; Melk, where a visit to the Abbey – a Benedictine Monastery since 1089 – is a must; Vienna and Budapest.
The mighty Mekong flows 4300 km in to the South China Sea in southern Vietnam from the mountains of the Himalayas. Although it flows through seven countries – Tibet, China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam – the Mekong is one of Asia’s least-developed rivers and is second only to that of the Amazon in terms of biodiversity. Along its banks you can find 20,000 species of plants, 430 types of mammals, 1200 bird species and 800 types of reptiles. Highlights of a river cruise, which travel between Ho Chi Minh City and Cambodia’s Siem Reap include a gastronomic tour of Ho Chi Minh City to sample some sweet and spicy Vietnamese delicacies; a stopover in the town of Sa Dec to visit the local markets; and of course the magnificent Angkor Wat – the largest religious monument in the world.
The 800km Rhone River makes its way through Provence and southeastern France – the heart of French wine country – before flowing into the Mediterranean near Marseilles. It is a classic cruise destination full of memorable gastronomic treats, forementioned wines, historic towns dating back to the Roman Empire, hectares of vineyards, lush olive and orange groves, and fields of fragrant purple lavender. At Lyon, the Rhone and Saone rivers meet but the river divides again at Arles, becoming the “Grand Rhone” and the “Petit Rhone”, both of which course down to the Mediterranean. Highlights of a Rhone River cruise could include a tour through the walled city of Avignon and a visit to the Palace of the Popes; a hike through Camargue Nature Park near Arles, where thousands of migrating birds flock to the wetlands area in the spring and autumn; and a visit to the spectacular ancient Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard.